The quest for purple

This’ll slay ’em, I thought. Take a pot full of beautiful purple-leaved basil and make purple pesto. Mmm .. one of the most delicious Italian sauces but with a visual twist of mauve.

Freshly picked purple basil leaves
Freshly picked purple basil leaves

I took all the large leaves from my purple basil plant, leaving enough small ones for it to grow back if the passing of summer allows.

The makings of purple pesto?
The makings of purple pesto?..

And added the usual pesto ingredients of pine nuts, good olive oil, garlic and pecorino cheese. There wasn’t enough basil though, so I added the same amount again of green basil. The purple leaves would obviously dominate.

.. Err, not quite.
.. Err, not quite.

A quick blitz in the blender taught me never to underestimate the power of chlorophyll as the green basil and green olive oil turned the mix into a kind of dull military khaki colour, anything but purple.  Am I bothered? No, because it tastes sensational. Now chilling in the fridge, it’ll be the making of a pasta dish at the weekend.

Green, but quite delicious.
Muddy green, but quite delicious.

It turns out there is such a thing as pesto rosso, but it gets its deep scarlet colour from tomatoes, not the only surprising ingredient as it also contains almonds and peppers. With most of those ingredients still available outside in the garden (Oh how I’d love an almond tree) I must try the genuine pesto rosso before the season is out.

Compact Heinz tomato plant
Compact Heinz tomato plant

Perhaps I’ll make it with the now ripe Heinz 3402 tomatoes. Today was the first chance to taste this intriguing variety, one of a series of seed releases that the Heinz company makes from time to time. They’re not the tomatoes used to make the famous ketchup but given their provenance what would they be like?

Heinz 3402 toms now ripening

Heinz 3402 tomatoes ripening

Well the plants are smallish, no more than two feet/60cm high, and each produced only a few tomatoes. Cutting into one, they’re firm and quite meaty, not at all watery.

Good texture and reasonable flavour from Heinz 3402
Good texture and reasonable flavour from Heinz 3402

The taste is fairly mild, not tart or piquant, but with a pleasant plummy hint lingering afterwards. All in all not bad. I’d be happy to try another Heinz experiment, and seeing as this was variety number 3402 there are apparently plenty more to choose from …


  1. […] I sowed them today, unaware as yet what the plants’ growth habit and productivity will be, but it’ll be very interesting to taste the tomatoes later in the year.   UPDATE:  See how they turned out six months later.. […]


  2. Well, this comment is quite late, but I’m curious how you did care for the Heinz 3402 tomato plants. Did you cut leaves off, or did you just let them go? I hope you will read this! 😉


    • Hi GWP. I didn’t do very much to be honest. I pinched out the suckers from the side branches and mixed tomato feed into the water occasionally. The plants were quite wild eventually so they needed tying to stakes. Otherwise I left them to it.


      • Thank you for your answer! I sowed them this year and I’ve done nothing. They seemed to do well, before they got phytophthora… They are making a lot of tomatoes, but unfortunately I will not see the result.


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